Fine Tuning

I wasn’t even finished typing the title when I realized that it’s another age-revealing expression – from the time when analog devices ruled. I’m going to stick with it because that’s what I hope to be doing very soon. Last year, I attended AIIM’s Enterprise Content Management (ECM) training with the goal to improve our approach to ECM on SharePoint. That class was amazing and I began applying the lessons from that course before I finished the case study. But, I come from a technical background and where ECM refers to Records Management, some of the concepts and some of our implementation, could use a little fine tuning. Fortunately for me, AIIM has a course for ERM too.

As I write this post, I have just finished AIIM’s Electronic Records Management (ERM) master program (actually, I just completed the online exam, see new designation – yay!). As I mention in a sister blog on Training, I took multiple sets of notes including the ones I needed for the exam and the case study, and the ones I need to act on when I return to work. And, I’m took tons of notes. The class was great, the material was everything you would expect from AIIM, and the instructor brought a wealth of experience to the classroom. He also voiced concern about SharePoint. As he guided us through the intricacies of Records Management he, or one of my classmates would periodically say “and this is where SharePoint scares me…

I reminded myself that I took the class to learn about Records Management, not defend Microsoft so I resisted championing SharePoint for a task I’m not sure it was designed to handle. On the other hand, I know that we are using SharePoint for ERM. I took advantage of the class; I bounced some ideas off the instructor and my colleagues to see if I could at least convince myself that this will work. The issue in most of the discussions stemed from the difference between Content Management and Records Management. Much of the material in the two courses (ECM & ERM) is related, they even have some of the same topics but there’s a much more serious atmosphere around these topics in the ERM world. The instructor talked about: “documents that can’t be deleted” and “documents that have to be preserved for 50 years”, and one of my classmates mentioned a statute in one country that calls for retention “for the life of legal entity plus two years” and I started to worry. I started thinking about how SharePoint might evolve, how Active Directory might evolve and even how our company might change over time. I realize that it isn’t whether SharePoint is up to the task, it’s whether we are up to the task.

Like most companies, we already manage Records. Some might be in file cabinets, some might be in boxes at Iron Mountain and some are in SharePoint but the “management” falls to us, the humans interacting with these repositories. The things that we need to do to address Capture, Storage, Classification, Search and Security, SharePoint can handle. We can map a classification scheme into SharePoint, and we can incorporate Metadata; we’re doing that today. We can manage permissions and Search Scopes and we can use Content Types to provide the metadata inheritance I’m told we need. When it comes to Retention, Preservation, Controls and Disposition, things start to get fuzzy. These are the areas where I find myself planning to pair Workflows with Metadata, and reporting on Audit Trails and integrating company policies with SharePoint administration. I know it can be done but I wonder if we can keep that effort on the rails.

My fear stems from the knowledge that SharePoint isn’t a system; it’s a platform on which you can build system-like behavior. That means that if we’re going to meet these challenges, someone, or some group needs to know SharePoint and Records Management. Today, I’m part of that group, but what about tomorrow and next year and 10 years from now? My notes suggest that I need to get more people involved in this task and that I need to continue our education program. That’s OK, I work with good capable people and where I am passionate about SharePoint, they are passionate about their Records – I think we can make it work.

I’m going to close with a little advertising. If you haven’t sensed this, in addition to being a SharePoint bigot, I’m a huge fan of AIIM. I’ve written many times about the wealth of material AIIM provides through white papers, research, blogs, Information Zen and training. If you administer SharePoint, join AIIM. If you really want to support document management on SharePoint (or any other platform) join AIIM and take advantage of AIIM Education. Remember, I’ve been around long enough to remember when devices include “Fine Tuning” knobs, and the courses I’ve taken through AIIM are among the best courses I’ve ever encountered.